Extension Educator, Horticulture
Every spring flowering tree appears to be going to same party this year. They are all dressed up in their finest. Each one is trying to outdo the other. I can't remember a spring when the trees have looked more beautiful than this year. The crabapples are always a favorite, but even they have crowded more flowers onto each stem. The magnolia flowers did not get hit with the usual late spring frost that quickly turns the petals into ripe banana peels. Besides magnolias and crabapples there are a few lesser-known trees that easily deserve to be invited to the party.
Pagoda Dogwood, Cornus alternifolia, is a lovely native tree reaching 20 to 25 feet tall. The yellowish-white flowers are held in tight clusters above the horizontal branches. The flowers are not as showy as the more commonly grown flowering dogwood, but are quite fragrant. Pagoda dogwoods grow best in partial shade in moist well drained soil. This dogwood is much easier to grow than the flowering dogwood, since it tolerates higher pH soils and appears to have few insect and disease problems.
White fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus, is another North American native reaching 12 to 20 feet tall. The white flowers are borne profusely in pendulous clusters 6 to8 inches long in late May or early June. It grows best in moist, well-drained soil and full sun is preferred. White fringetree sometimes appears more as a multistemmed shrub than a tree. One of my favorite native tree or shrub is the blackhaw viburnum, Viburnum prunifolium. It usually reaches 12 to 15 feet tall. The new leaves emerge with a tinge of red and they go out the same way they came in with a deep red to bronze fall color. The creamy white flowers appear in May in flat topped clusters. The blue black fruits appear September through fall and can be used in preserves if you reach them before the birds. Blackhaws are very nice as specimen trees or in a shrub border. It is native to shady areas. Blackhaw viburnums appear to have few insect and disease problems. A truly marvelous full season plant.
Japanese tree lilac, Syringa reticulata, is a late bloomer . The fragrant white flowers appear as upright clusters 6 to 12 inches high in early to mid June. It grows to 20 to 30 feet tall and can be used effectively as a specimen tree or street tree. They generally flower better in full sun. Japanese tree lilac also has very attractive reddish brown cherry-like bark.
The City of Urbana Arbor division is in the process of planning a tree walk guide, a handy self guided tour of neighborhood trees in Urbana. We need your input. Write in and nominate your favorite tree candidate for the guide. It could be an unusual species, unique shape, historic to the community, a large specimen or just plain weird. Trees should be viewable from the street. Just send in the location, the species (if you know it) and why you believe it belongs in the tree guide. Send in your favorite tree candidates to: Unique Tree Trail, Urbana Public Works, 706 South Glover, Urbana, Illinois 61802, Attn: Mike Brunk.
Join the Master Gardeners at the Idea Garden, near the corner of Lincoln and Florida on Saturday May 15 at 10 am for a program on window boxes. Josh Schneider Master Gardener and owner of Mourning Dove Farms will be sharing his tips on planting window boxes including plant selection, soil mixes and different styles of boxes. Workshops are open to the public and free of charge.